X Games Aspen: Music Guide 2020
X Games has given Aspen some of its most memorable musical moments in recent years.
Since the ESPN event started hosting concerts in its temporary, 5,000-person arena off Panda Peak at Buttermilk Ski Area, it has brought in Twenty One Pilots as the duo was peaking as the most popular band in the U.S. in 2016 and it landed The Chainsmokers a year later as “Closer” was the most-played song in the country. X Games booked LCD Soundsystem on its momentous “American Dream” reunion tour in 2018 and last year brought Lil Wayne to Buttermilk hot off his comeback release “Tha Carter V.”
X Games also birthed Belly Up Aspen, the intimate 450-capacity club that opened its doors during X Games weekend in 2005 and has gone on to become one of the best-known small venues in the U.S. Belly Up has built its “BXV” anniversary season around X Games, hosting the headliners from Buttermilk for more intimate shows and also bringing The Chainsmokers back to town for the club’s official anniversary party on Thursday.
For live pop music in Aspen, X Games is arguably now outpacing New Year’s Eve week and the long Labor Day festival weekend in its star power and its number of shows.
The 2020 headliners are hip-hop duo Rae Sremmurd, DJs Illenium and Alesso and R&B singer Bazzi, each playing the big Buttermilk venue as well as Belly Up.
New on the scene this year, The Snow Lodge at the base of Aspen Mountain is hosting daily après-ski shows from 4–6 p.m. The slopeside venue came out of the gate strong with The Chainsmokers on Wednesday and indie-pop band Flor on Thursday.
The late-night post-competition party scene downtown, of which Eric’s has long been the epicenter, also has DJ options at the Living Room at the W, Bootsy Bellows and Escobar. For X Games revelers looking to dance but not ready to hit the bus lines, Studio X is hosting DJs every night after the on-snow competitions end. They’re scheduled to play Friday from 9–11:30 p.m., Saturday from 10–11:30 and Sunday from 7:30–9:30.
Meanwhile, there will be less music on ESPN’s X Games broadcast in 2020. After a one-year run, the on-air music and culture commentator Hannah Rad is off the X Games team and hasn’t been replaced. ESPN hasn’t produced the artist interviews, “SportsCenter” featurettes and concert preview coverage that, in years prior, had built hype for the X Games shows.
So the concerts are expected to have a less prominent place on ESPN this year, while ticket sales also are lagging off of 2019. All four shows were sold out going into the weekend last year, when headliners included Lil Wayne, the Chainsmokers and Kygo. As of press time, the only show at the Buttermilk venue that had sold out was Denver-based Illenium’s Saturday afternoon performance.
Illenium also sold out his Wednesday night slot at Belly Up downtown, as did The Chainsmokers’ Thursday night Belly Up show and Alesso’s on Friday. Tickets are still available for Rae Sremmurd’s Saturday night performance at Belly Up and Bazzi’s on Sunday.
Here’s a day-by-day rundown of the weekend’s music options:
FRIDAY, JAN. 24
The big show at Buttermilk is hip-hop duo Rae Sremmurd (10 p.m.), the platinum-selling brothers and Mike Will Made-It collaborators behind the inescapable “Black Beatles” and other recent monster hits like “Swang,” “No Type” and “Come Get Her.”
As Rae Sremmurd’s Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi kick off the outdoor shows at the X Games venue, the Swedish DJ superstar Alesso will be downtown at Belly Up (10 p.m.) for a sold-out show in the warmer and more intimate confines of Aspen’s premier music venue.
Friday’s big après-ski show is at the base of Ajax, where the uplifting synth-pop duo St. Lucia will play the Snow Lodge (4–6 p.m.)
SATURDAY, JAN. 25
The most-anticipated show of the weekend comes Saturday afternoon at the Buttermilk venue as Denver hero Illenium plays his main stage gig (4:30 p.m.). The DJ has been a regular in these parts, and at Belly Up, for many years since his days as a University of Colorado-Denver music student. Seemingly the rest of the world fell for him, too, with his breakout hit LP “Ascend,” released in August. Now he’s playing to a capacity crowd of some 5,000 fans at Buttermilk in a blow-out homecoming show.
After the on-snow action wraps up with the women’s snowboard superpipe finals, Alesso takes the stage at the Buttermilk venue (9:30 p.m.), and Rae Sremmurd takes it inside for their Belly Up gig (10 p.m.).
The Snow Lodge at the base of Ajax’s afternoon set will feature a DJ set by Sofi Tukker, the ascendant pop/house duo behind the Grammy-nominated “Drinkee” and “Best Friend,” which became an unexpected hit after it was featured in a 2017 iPhone commercial.
SUNDAY, JAN. 26
It’s Bazzi day, with a doubleheader from the 22-year-old singer and multi-instrumentalist at Buttermilk (4:30 p.m.) and Belly Up (9:30 p.m.).
In between the two doses of Bazzi’s sexy R&B, Sunday will be the big locals’ night at X Games, as Aspen’s Alex Ferreira vies for a repeat gold in the ski superpipe event.
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